Building Habits

August 24, 2007 at 5:53 pm (all, blogging, children, classroom management, culture, drama, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, food, friends, High School, history, humor, kids, life, love, Middle School, movies, music, news, Parents, personal, photography, poetry, politics, principals, reading, religion, school, school administration, sports, teachers, technology, Thornebrooke, thoughts, travel, Uncategorized, video, women, writing)

It takes 27 days to form a habit. Remember when your mother used to ask you to make your bed every day? Then, after a while, you simply started making it on your own —without having to be reminded to do it. Making your bed every day had become a habit.

In my column, Laying the Groundwork, I discussed the importance of brainstorming expectations and procedures as part of laying the groundwork for building good habits. This time, I want to discuss in a little more detail the kinds of habits we want to build in our students — and how we can build them.

When thinking about the kinds of good habits you want students to develop, go back to that list of expectations and procedures you created. For me, for example, it’s important that students enter my classroom, check their mailboxes, and start working on their focus assignment before the first bell rings. It’s important that when I use the quiet signal, my students get quiet and focus on me. I expect my students to stay in a quiet straight line when I walk with them down the hall. It’s also important to me for students to be silent, with a clean area, before I dismiss them. Those types of habits, as well as others, also might be important to you. If you’re not really sure what you expect of your students, then take some time right now to brainstorm those actions and behaviors that you want to become habits for your students.

Okay, you have your list. You might be asking yourself, “Why is it important that I help build these habits?” The reason is to save yourself stress later on in the school year. Spring semester might seem like a long way away, but it will come around a lot faster than you think. Students who are not following good habits in the fall have a tendency to let spring fever get out of hand. Behavior can become more erratic then, and without good habits in place, students are more likely to get out of control. By setting the standards at the beginning of the year and turning good behaviors into good habits, you save yourself a lot of time and stress later.

But how can you build in students the good habits you expect? First, clearly explain your expectations to students. Next, make sure students practice the correct actions and behaviors daily. (It’s especially important to practice behaviors over and over again during the first couple of weeks of school.) Third, be consistent about requiring specific behaviors. If you see students not meeting your expectations, don’t be afraid to stop and take the time to practice the correct action or behavior right then and there.

For example, if I notice that many students are entering the classroom and “hanging out” without starting their work before the bell rings, I stop everything and practice my expectations. I have students file out of the classroom and re-enter correctly. If students are not following my quiet signal, we stop immediately and practice until they get it right. By doing that consistently, students begin to see that I will hold them accountable for their actions. After 27 days or more of doing the same actions over and over again, the behaviors become a habit for students. What you want to achieve is a classroom in which students know what to do and when to do it. That is a well-disciplined classroom.
You might find, of course, that as the year progresses, you need to stop and practice your expectations again. That is perfectly normal and can be thought of as “maintenance.”

Before you know it, however, your students will be entering the classroom and doing exactly what you expect of them — whether you are there to remind them or not. Good behavior has become — just like making your bed each day — a habit. In the end, that’s precisely what we strive to accomplish.
As you work toward that goal, remember the maxim “Good habits are hard to break” — and practice, practice, practice.

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Memory

April 30, 2007 at 6:01 pm (all, books, children, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, High School, kids, life, Middle School, music, news, Parents, personal, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, technology, Thornebrooke, thoughts, Uncategorized, writing)

Memory improvement and research related to the science of memory

Fahey, John AAlthough the art of mem

Memory improvement and research related to the science of memory

Fahey, John A

Although the art of memory has been explored for centuries, recent research in the “Decade of the Brain,” has provided a plethora of information that may accelerate our ability to understand, apply and access how we learn and remember. The purpose of this article is to propose proven methods to enhance memory, thus learning, for both students and teachers. Some of these methods to improve learning were discovered as far back as 400 B.C., while others are in the process of being developed.

In a time of high-stakes testing and accountability, educators must use research-based skills, tools and techniques to assist students learn content and remember the information. Learning the content is a function of numerous educational practices that assist memory. This article focuses on memory. Without the ability to remember the content we have not learned it, according to the standards-based tests. We need to learn how we best remember and how we can improve this skill.

Memory: A Definition

What is Memory? Memory is a glorious and admirable gift of nature by which we recall past things, we embrace present things, and we contemplate future things through their similarity to past things. Boncompagno, 1891 (Yates, 1966. p. 58)

Introduction and Purpose

Although the art of memory has been explored for centuries, recent research in the “Decade of the Brain,” has provided a plethora of information that may accelerate our ability to understand, apply and access how we learn and remember. The new millennium should produce exciting, innovative ways to access and expand memory. Scientists have located multiple loci in the brain for memory storage and neurochemical research has provided invaluable information on the chemistry of neuron activity. Recent use of music and exercise are demonstrating exciting and effective ways to increase memory. All of these discoveries and the potential instructional strategies are important for educators to incorporate into their pedagogical repertoire.

This article is about memory improvement, and some of the recent research implications related to the science of memory.A proposal to use music, movement and objects or articles as metaphors to assist students to remember will be offered in order to add practical application to understanding.

Historical Perspective of Memory

From the concept of natural memory to ancient views of artificial memory, people have examined this art and devised numerous mechanisms to assist their efforts. Certain techniques and patterns were established early in the studies of memory. In the late thirteenth century, Lull distinguished between types of memory (Yates, 1966). Lull presented two types of artificial memory; the first employs medicines and plasters, and the second relates to frequent repetition of information “like an ox chewing the cud.” (Yates, 1966, p. 192). The importance of repetition has been understood since 400 B.C. (Noll & Turkington, 1994). The concept that “the brain strengthens learning through repetition,” so long as it is not boring, supports efforts to improve memory (Jensen, 2000, p.78), however, there are numerous significant research findings that take memory strategies to levels beyond the “cud” metaphor.

The Multiple “R”s of Memory-Record, Rehearse, Retain, Reconstruct, Retrieval

For a person to remember he, or she, needs to proceed through a pattern of actions that enable a word, idea, concept or skill to become embedded into long-term storage. Long-term memory storage is enhanced by association, repetition, reconstruction or through vivid feelings.

Preparation for standardized tests at key gateways in educational evaluation requires the ability to memorize information and to recognize it at the appropriate times. Content knowledge is required before the learner can move to the more complex levels of educational taxonomy. In this pattern the multiple “R”s of memory might be helpful.

The use of “R” words employs a mnemonic device (all begin with an “R”) to assist recognition. They are examined as follows: (see chart on following page).

Avenues of Understanding

Recent investigations of brain-based research on memory suggest types of memory lanes (Sprenger, 1999), the importance of attention and receptor modification (Jensen, 1998) and the action of messenger proteins in the recall processes (Milner, 1999). Each discovery illuminates an important feature in the science of memory.

Sprenger’s (1999) memory lanes analogy provides the avenues associated with learning information within a variety of contexts. From the semantic, episodic, procedural, automatic and emotional lanes, individuals have a variety of neural pathways to search for information. Information is stored in context and this context provides a cue in the recognition process. Sprenger aptly states, “Locating memories may be impossible if we aren’t looking in the right place.” (p. 45). These avenues, supported by Caine and Caine’s locale memory (1994) relate to storage of information in a context. Embedding knowledge in context assists in memory and recall. For example, this phenomenon can be natural or assisted through the use of mnemonic devices such as the multiple “R”s of memory discussed earlier. The mnemonic device of using loci in a room for memorizing information dates back to 500 BC (Yates, 1966).

Food for Thought

New discoveries related to the brain have enhanced our perspectives and provided better science for examining memory. From research on neurochemistry to positron emission tomography (PET) scans, we have a better understanding of the brain and how it works. Important findings related to the fluidity of information storage (neural plasticity), the importance of protein in long-term memory, the need for calcium, choline and acetycholine in aiding the chemical processes of memory, (Jensen, 1998) and the importance of water in the entire memory learning process (Fahey, 2000) have provided food for thought. This research, applied with complementary studies on memory mechanisms, provides optimal learning tools for educators and their students.

In the area of activity-induced changes at the synaptic level in the brain, Milner (1999) provides a conceptual framework for the complex processes of neurological changes we call learning. Milner’s research provides insight into neurochemical activities of the synthesized proteins necessary for storing (learning) and changing receptor sites to configure the ability to recall information (retrieving). Initial storage of information requires changes in the receptor proteins and the messenger proteins in the brain. These receptor sites synapses “retain a chemical tag that allows the new protein to find them,” (p. 83). Through repeated activation this process strengthens the synapses and recall is facilitated. This seems to encourage protein in the diet for optimal brain function.

There is much research to support the importance of protein in the diet (Wurtman, 1998, Conners, 1989, Jensen, 1998). In correspondence with Steven Rose, author and brain scientist for almost thirty years, Rose cautions scientists and educators to be judicious about many of the recent findings. In the 1960s, scientists researched the neurochemical functions of the brain to find the “memory molecule.” Protein and RNA were claimed to be the magic chemistry of memory (Gurowitz, 1969). In 2000 Rose writes

because all foodstuffs are broken down into their component molecules during digestion there is no special need for protein per se what is required are the essential amino acids which are components of protein, and are then used as the building blocks to synthesize the proteins that the brain – and other tissues – need. Ditto for sugars. Vitamins are important because they are molecules that the body can’t synthesize from simpler components and therefore become essential parts of the diet. (Personal communication with Rose, May 25, 2000).

Review of literature on the brain and learning consistently supports the biological need for the amino acids that come from proteins, calcium that can be found in dairy products or other sources and vitamins that come through nourishment. Our brain, like the rest of our body, needs specific chemicals to function.

Imagery in the Learning Process

Exhaustive examination of imagery and related mnemonic processes (McDaniel & Pressley, 1987) provides a sense of memory efficiency that contributes to the ancient concept of artificial memory. Review of literature addresses the issues of student-generated images vs. teacher-generated images, as well as the use of bizarre images vs. the use of vivid images. In this body of research it was determined that bizarre was no better than plausible. Most findings concluded that vivid images were important in association and recall (McDaniel & Pressley). Much research on teacher vs. student-generated images demonstrated that in early years teacher-derived images are more helpful and as students become more experienced, student generated images are helpful (McDaniel & Pressley). From this perspective, we are proposing a means of mnemonic memory metaphors.

From Mnemonics to Metaphors

Mnemonic devices such as the loci, link, peg, and phonetic key word systems have been used successfully for years in assisting students to form associations in the process of learning. These devices provide imagery, rhymes and organizational patterns that are used in a variety of learning contexts.

A real object or a model of the object provides the learner with a plausible visual and at times, kinetic hook in the association process. Years of teaching with toys and real objects to demonstrate scientific laws and principles, one of the authors has found that these articles provide students with visual images, metaphors for memory and kinetic experiences that are encoded in a context that is registered and retrieved more readily. This aspect of multi-sensory stimuli assists students in creating vivid images for association and recall. The use of objects as metaphors for processes, concepts and knowledge assists students as they make connections to their world, forms images that will be recalled, and provides another sensory input for the intended learning. Examples of this practice are numerous and teachers do this every day.

The method of using objects as learning metaphors also supports the research on emotion and memory. Milner (1999) discussed the effect of emotion on remembering an event. Intensity of emotion may assist recall for years at a time or forgetting in minutes (Milner, 1999, p. 124). As good teachers know, the varied use of emotion in explaining and teaching assists students in creating hooks for memory and recall. Students may remember the location, specific words and concepts as presented in class if they are emotionally engaged in the process.

Music and Exercise to Enhance Memory

De Los Santos (2000) has proven that certain classical music compositions accompanied by physical exercises to stimulate the whole brain enhance memory, and thus learning. He conducted a study in Texas with a “pilot school” of 402 elementary school students using pre- and post-tests, and teachers’ observations. This empirical study used a “control school” with similar demographics as the “pilot school.”

In one semester the “pilot school” first and second grade students improved student performance in the Iowa Test of Basic Skills by 11 to 23 percent more than the “Control School” students. Third, fourth, and fifth grade students in the “pilot school” improved their Texas Assessment of Academic Skills scores in reading, writing, and arithmetic by 9 to 16 percent more than the “control school” students using the music and exercise program only one semester. These are some of the exciting memory enhancement innovations of the new millennium.

Conditions to Remember

With more than 25,000 scientists rediscovering the brain everyday, we may be able to make better connections between the research and the application of the brain-based findings in classrooms. Educators must examine these conditions and ensure they build schools and communities that meet more optimal conditions for learning. Conditions that may assist memory include:

* Repetition in learning – not boring, exciting

* Emotional attachment during learning

* Proper neurochemistry through diet and vitamins

* Mnemonic devices for better association and recall

* High challenge-low threat (Caine & Caine, 1994)

* Hands-on, active, visual, kinetic, metaphoric instruction

* Context and connection to ensure embedding knowledge

* Frequent assessment with non-threatening feedback to ensure mastery

* Certain classical music compositions

* Exercises that stimulate the brain

There is so much more to memory than this. Brain-based research may be a key to understanding the making of memories and the application in education. As educators, we need to add our experiences to this body of research. We need to be critical consumers of the research and create conditions for success. We play the games of memory everyday in our classes. We teach with mnemonics. We played “Jeopardy” in schools for years. We now play “Who wants to be a millionaire?” in school. We know the melodies, the lyrics, and respond to the music. We know that movement assists connections. We know what conditions work. We know how we learn. We remember!

ory has been explored for centuries, recent research in the “Decade of the Brain,” has provided a plethora of information that may accelerate our ability to understand, apply and access how we learn and remember. The purpose of this article is to propose proven methods to enhance memory, thus learning, for both students and teachers. Some of these methods to improve learning were discovered as far back as 400 B.C., while others are in the process of being developed.

In a time of high-stakes testing and accountability, educators must use research-based skills, tools and techniques to assist students learn content and remember the information. Learning the content is a function of numerous educational practices that assist memory. This article focuses on memory. Without the ability to remember the content we have not learned it, according to the standards-based tests. We need to learn how we best remember and how we can improve this skill.

Memory: A Definition

What is Memory? Memory is a glorious and admirable gift of nature by which we recall past things, we embrace present things, and we contemplate future things through their similarity to past things. Boncompagno, 1891 (Yates, 1966. p. 58)

Introduction and Purpose

Although the art of memory has been explored for centuries, recent research in the “Decade of the Brain,” has provided a plethora of information that may accelerate our ability to understand, apply and access how we learn and remember. The new millennium should produce exciting, innovative ways to access and expand memory. Scientists have located multiple loci in the brain for memory storage and neurochemical research has provided invaluable information on the chemistry of neuron activity. Recent use of music and exercise are demonstrating exciting and effective ways to increase memory. All of these discoveries and the potential instructional strategies are important for educators to incorporate into their pedagogical repertoire.

This article is about memory improvement, and some of the recent research implications related to the science of memory.A proposal to use music, movement and objects or articles as metaphors to assist students to remember will be offered in order to add practical application to understanding.

Historical Perspective of Memory

From the concept of natural memory to ancient views of artificial memory, people have examined this art and devised numerous mechanisms to assist their efforts. Certain techniques and patterns were established early in the studies of memory. In the late thirteenth century, Lull distinguished between types of memory (Yates, 1966). Lull presented two types of artificial memory; the first employs medicines and plasters, and the second relates to frequent repetition of information “like an ox chewing the cud.” (Yates, 1966, p. 192). The importance of repetition has been understood since 400 B.C. (Noll & Turkington, 1994). The concept that “the brain strengthens learning through repetition,” so long as it is not boring, supports efforts to improve memory (Jensen, 2000, p.78), however, there are numerous significant research findings that take memory strategies to levels beyond the “cud” metaphor.

The Multiple “R”s of Memory-Record, Rehearse, Retain, Reconstruct, Retrieval

For a person to remember he, or she, needs to proceed through a pattern of actions that enable a word, idea, concept or skill to become embedded into long-term storage. Long-term memory storage is enhanced by association, repetition, reconstruction or through vivid feelings.

Preparation for standardized tests at key gateways in educational evaluation requires the ability to memorize information and to recognize it at the appropriate times. Content knowledge is required before the learner can move to the more complex levels of educational taxonomy. In this pattern the multiple “R”s of memory might be helpful.

The use of “R” words employs a mnemonic device (all begin with an “R”) to assist recognition. They are examined as follows: (see chart on following page).

Avenues of Understanding

Recent investigations of brain-based research on memory suggest types of memory lanes (Sprenger, 1999), the importance of attention and receptor modification (Jensen, 1998) and the action of messenger proteins in the recall processes (Milner, 1999). Each discovery illuminates an important feature in the science of memory.

Sprenger’s (1999) memory lanes analogy provides the avenues associated with learning information within a variety of contexts. From the semantic, episodic, procedural, automatic and emotional lanes, individuals have a variety of neural pathways to search for information. Information is stored in context and this context provides a cue in the recognition process. Sprenger aptly states, “Locating memories may be impossible if we aren’t looking in the right place.” (p. 45). These avenues, supported by Caine and Caine’s locale memory (1994) relate to storage of information in a context. Embedding knowledge in context assists in memory and recall. For example, this phenomenon can be natural or assisted through the use of mnemonic devices such as the multiple “R”s of memory discussed earlier. The mnemonic device of using loci in a room for memorizing information dates back to 500 BC (Yates, 1966).

Food for Thought

New discoveries related to the brain have enhanced our perspectives and provided better science for examining memory. From research on neurochemistry to positron emission tomography (PET) scans, we have a better understanding of the brain and how it works. Important findings related to the fluidity of information storage (neural plasticity), the importance of protein in long-term memory, the need for calcium, choline and acetycholine in aiding the chemical processes of memory, (Jensen, 1998) and the importance of water in the entire memory learning process (Fahey, 2000) have provided food for thought. This research, applied with complementary studies on memory mechanisms, provides optimal learning tools for educators and their students.

In the area of activity-induced changes at the synaptic level in the brain, Milner (1999) provides a conceptual framework for the complex processes of neurological changes we call learning. Milner’s research provides insight into neurochemical activities of the synthesized proteins necessary for storing (learning) and changing receptor sites to configure the ability to recall information (retrieving). Initial storage of information requires changes in the receptor proteins and the messenger proteins in the brain. These receptor sites synapses “retain a chemical tag that allows the new protein to find them,” (p. 83). Through repeated activation this process strengthens the synapses and recall is facilitated. This seems to encourage protein in the diet for optimal brain function.

There is much research to support the importance of protein in the diet (Wurtman, 1998, Conners, 1989, Jensen, 1998). In correspondence with Steven Rose, author and brain scientist for almost thirty years, Rose cautions scientists and educators to be judicious about many of the recent findings. In the 1960s, scientists researched the neurochemical functions of the brain to find the “memory molecule.” Protein and RNA were claimed to be the magic chemistry of memory (Gurowitz, 1969). In 2000 Rose writes

because all foodstuffs are broken down into their component molecules during digestion there is no special need for protein per se what is required are the essential amino acids which are components of protein, and are then used as the building blocks to synthesize the proteins that the brain – and other tissues – need. Ditto for sugars. Vitamins are important because they are molecules that the body can’t synthesize from simpler components and therefore become essential parts of the diet. (Personal communication with Rose, May 25, 2000).

Review of literature on the brain and learning consistently supports the biological need for the amino acids that come from proteins, calcium that can be found in dairy products or other sources and vitamins that come through nourishment. Our brain, like the rest of our body, needs specific chemicals to function.

Imagery in the Learning Process

Exhaustive examination of imagery and related mnemonic processes (McDaniel & Pressley, 1987) provides a sense of memory efficiency that contributes to the ancient concept of artificial memory. Review of literature addresses the issues of student-generated images vs. teacher-generated images, as well as the use of bizarre images vs. the use of vivid images. In this body of research it was determined that bizarre was no better than plausible. Most findings concluded that vivid images were important in association and recall (McDaniel & Pressley). Much research on teacher vs. student-generated images demonstrated that in early years teacher-derived images are more helpful and as students become more experienced, student generated images are helpful (McDaniel & Pressley). From this perspective, we are proposing a means of mnemonic memory metaphors.

From Mnemonics to Metaphors

Mnemonic devices such as the loci, link, peg, and phonetic key word systems have been used successfully for years in assisting students to form associations in the process of learning. These devices provide imagery, rhymes and organizational patterns that are used in a variety of learning contexts.

A real object or a model of the object provides the learner with a plausible visual and at times, kinetic hook in the association process. Years of teaching with toys and real objects to demonstrate scientific laws and principles, one of the authors has found that these articles provide students with visual images, metaphors for memory and kinetic experiences that are encoded in a context that is registered and retrieved more readily. This aspect of multi-sensory stimuli assists students in creating vivid images for association and recall. The use of objects as metaphors for processes, concepts and knowledge assists students as they make connections to their world, forms images that will be recalled, and provides another sensory input for the intended learning. Examples of this practice are numerous and teachers do this every day.

The method of using objects as learning metaphors also supports the research on emotion and memory. Milner (1999) discussed the effect of emotion on remembering an event. Intensity of emotion may assist recall for years at a time or forgetting in minutes (Milner, 1999, p. 124). As good teachers know, the varied use of emotion in explaining and teaching assists students in creating hooks for memory and recall. Students may remember the location, specific words and concepts as presented in class if they are emotionally engaged in the process.

Music and Exercise to Enhance Memory

De Los Santos (2000) has proven that certain classical music compositions accompanied by physical exercises to stimulate the whole brain enhance memory, and thus learning. He conducted a study in Texas with a “pilot school” of 402 elementary school students using pre- and post-tests, and teachers’ observations. This empirical study used a “control school” with similar demographics as the “pilot school.”

In one semester the “pilot school” first and second grade students improved student performance in the Iowa Test of Basic Skills by 11 to 23 percent more than the “Control School” students. Third, fourth, and fifth grade students in the “pilot school” improved their Texas Assessment of Academic Skills scores in reading, writing, and arithmetic by 9 to 16 percent more than the “control school” students using the music and exercise program only one semester. These are some of the exciting memory enhancement innovations of the new millennium.

Conditions to Remember

With more than 25,000 scientists rediscovering the brain everyday, we may be able to make better connections between the research and the application of the brain-based findings in classrooms. Educators must examine these conditions and ensure they build schools and communities that meet more optimal conditions for learning. Conditions that may assist memory include:

* Repetition in learning – not boring, exciting

* Emotional attachment during learning

* Proper neurochemistry through diet and vitamins

* Mnemonic devices for better association and recall

* High challenge-low threat (Caine & Caine, 1994)

* Hands-on, active, visual, kinetic, metaphoric instruction

* Context and connection to ensure embedding knowledge

* Frequent assessment with non-threatening feedback to ensure mastery

* Certain classical music compositions

* Exercises that stimulate the brain

There is so much more to memory than this. Brain-based research may be a key to understanding the making of memories and the application in education. As educators, we need to add our experiences to this body of research. We need to be critical consumers of the research and create conditions for success. We play the games of memory everyday in our classes. We teach with mnemonics. We played “Jeopardy” in schools for years. We now play “Who wants to be a millionaire?” in school. We know the melodies, the lyrics, and respond to the music. We know that movement assists connections. We know what conditions work. We know how we learn. We remember!

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Using Online Video Clips for Learning

March 13, 2007 at 4:23 am (all, blogging, children, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, High School, kids, life, Middle School, movies, news, Parents, personal, principals, school, school administration, teachers, technology, video)

“You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”

–Mark Twain

Can your students use their imaginations? Do they have enough experience to imagine and visualize the content you teach? With an LCD projector and an Internet connection, multimedia lessons are just a click away. Follow the links below to sites that offer searchable databases full of educational video and connect with the visual learners in your classroom.

In “Seeing is Believing: Harnessing Online Video Clips to Enhance Learning” Brenda Dyck details the realm of possibilities and provides links to some great examples:

http://www.education-world.com/a_curr/profdev040.shtml

Annenberg Media offers a variety of multimedia resources– everything from professional development programs to videos you can use to build students’ background knowledge:

http://www.learner.org/view_programs/view.programs.html

Looking for a way to bridge content and popular culture? Wing Clips offers a diverse selection of film clips, from the American “Bridges to Terabithia” to the Israeli “39 Pounds of Love.” A subscription to the site is free for educators:

http://www.wingclips.com

Imagine taking your students across the country, virtually. Video clips from The American Field Guide explore animals, ecosystems, human history, space, plants and more:

http://www.pbs.org/americanfieldguide/index.html

Current events come alive when we help students build a historical context for them. The video gallery at History.com can help you do just that with an incredible range of material, and most clips are under five minutes in length. Categories include great speeches, history’s mysteries, and modern marvels:

http://www.history.com/media.do

Video is an effective component of staff development, and DVDs make it easy to bookmark and show short clips during staff meetings and other settings where time is limited. Most Stenhouse videos are now available in DVD format. Browse the selection (and view sample video clips) here:

http://www.stenhouse.com/videoindex.asp?r=n107

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Enjoying Spring Break

March 8, 2007 at 7:02 pm (blogging, children, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, friends, High School, humor, kids, life, Middle School, news, Parents, personal, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Uncategorized)

Looking for ideas as to how to enjoy spring break? If so, check out these sites. The first one offers strange, quirky ideas. The second one has the more “traditional” offerings. No matter your choice, take time to relax and enjoy the vacation!

http://www.swimwithmanatees.com/things1.html

http://www.thingstodo.com/states/FL/cn.htm

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Women’s History Month Resources

March 3, 2007 at 2:23 pm (all, books, children, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, High School, history, kids, life, Middle School, movies, music, news, Parents, personal, politics, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, technology, thoughts, Uncategorized, women)

March is Women’s History Month. Check out these sites for more information and resources.


http://womenshistory.about.com/

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/womenshistory1.html
http://www.gale.com/free_resources/whm/

http://www.free.ed.gov/subjects.cfm?subject_id=26&res_feature_request=1

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Improving Student Engagement

February 13, 2007 at 9:10 pm (blogging, books, children, culture, Education, kids, life, news, Parents, reading, school, technology, writing)

One of the most frequently asked questions I have from audiences around the country and from schools of every demographic characteristic is this:

“How can I get my students more engaged? I know that they can do the work, but they often seem distracted, bored, and disinterested. It’s a drag on the entire class when I have to spend time getting students to participate and engage in the activities of the class.”

Here are five ideas for improved student engagement from teachers, research, and my personal experiences with students:

1) Choice – A recurring theme of the research on motivation is choice. This does not mean that students have the choice of whether to engage in the assigned work, but it does mean that effective teachers can provide choices of how students engage in the work. Every time students engage in a choice, they are making a wager that they are choosing wisely, and nobody likes to lose a bet. All of the remaining parts of this “Top Five” list are variations on the theme of choice.

2) Homework Menus – Fresh from a class on “differentiated instruction,” the teacher walks to the board and assigns all students to complete the odd-numbered problems from 1-30. We’re all committed to the concept of fairness and equity, but these principles do not mean that every student does identical work. Rather, it means that every student has the same opportunity to learn. Some students will prove that they have mastered a concept in the first five problems and, growing bored, will stop work on the rest. These students frequently earn low grades despite high levels of proficiency. Other students struggle with the homework not because they are unable to master the subject, but because they have difficulty reading the material or focusing on the work. A Homework Menu creates a series of choices for students that will provide opportunities for proficiency for all students, while providing opportunities for challenge for those who are bored, and reinforcement and practice for students who are struggling. Some teachers create their Homework Menu in several columns, and students choose one or two problems (writing prompts, math problems, and so on) from each column. Not only does this strategy help to engage students, but it also provides valuable feedback for teachers based on the accuracy of the student work and the choices that students made.

3) Electronic Games – Using Macromedia Flash Professional 8 (free trial versions available at http://www.Adobe.com), one of Mr. Kane’s 8th grade history students created his own electronic game. Built around the theme of freedom during Revolutionary times, the student-produced game first provided pictures and quotations from Founders, and then asked questions about this period of history. Players received immediate feedback, including the opportunity to learn more and change their answers. While many students also chose essays, posters, dramas, and other creative methods of completing the assignment, there’s something about 8th grade boys and electronic games that seems to click.

4) Student-Generated Rubrics – Larry Ainsworth, author of Power Standards and many other publications, wrote Student Generated Rubrics, a book in which he demonstrates the power of students creating with clear and student-accessible language their expectations for performance. If you have ever had playground duty, you might have overheard students explaining the rules of a game to other students. In this context, students can be remarkably precise: You can go here, but you can’t go there. You can do this but you can’t do that. Equipped with such clear expectations, new students quickly learn the game. Why not capitalize on the ability of students to articulate expectations in the classroom? How much more clear might our rubrics and other expectations be if we took the time to have students express those expectations in a format and language that is clear to them? They might even use a combination of words, symbols, and pictures, knowing intuitively that not all of their classmates learn in the same way.

5) Engaging Scenarios – In the book and seminar series Making Standards Work, the first step of creating an effective standards-based classroom assessment is the creation of an engaging scenario. For example, before we assign a challenge to our students, we ask, “Why would anyone really need to know this? What real-life roles might our students play if they were using this information?” Science teachers in Alaska, for example, use simulations of the Exxon Valdez environmental disaster to help students develop language, math, science, and speaking skills as they engage in a court battle to represent the interests of Native Nations, local governments, tourist business owners, and many other stakeholders. Math teachers in Denver put students in the pilot’s seat as they use real-world navigation problems to hone their rate/time/distance skills and their understanding of geometry. Speech teachers throughout the nation are using compelling scenarios ranging from domestic violence (the current Lincoln-Douglas debate topic) to concerns over the college early admissions process (the current Public Forum debate topic) in order to help students practice research, writing, and communication skills.

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